The Undiscovered Country

It is a time of change and confusions, and so I chose a title to indicate both. The first confusion lies in the providence of the quote, which I’m sure some of you will have mistakenly identified as Shakespeare, W. from his work Hamlet. However, I am in fact quoting Roddenberry, G. and his creation Star Trek. The second confusion is that I am not, in fact, about to discuss either the post-life human condition commonly known as death, or a country that hasn’t been discovered, but South Korea. The third confusion, for those of you so presumptuous to have thought ahead, is the expected continuation of the metaphor… “from whose bourn no traveller returns….” No one can speak for certain of the future, and at this point there are still big question marks over whether I’ll make it to Korea or not, but if I do, I have every intention of returning in a very much alive condition.

There, I’m glad we got all that settled.

So the changes are probably now evident. Yes, the adventures in darkest Peru are drawing to a timely close and it is time to welcome new experiences on to the horizon of international existence. The journey since earning my CELTA has been anything but smooth, and plans have been drawn, shattered, redrawn and re-shattered numerous times, but somehow, almost exactly to schedule, I have managed to land on my feet in exactly the role I wanted to have attained at this point. In’t life brilliant? This happy state of affairs serves to remind me, just as I was in danger of forgetting, that with a positive attitude to life things have always, always – as bleak as they may have seemed at times – worked out just fine.

The last four weeks have been a rush of activity (hence the lack of posts) and now I am a freer woman than I have been for some time.

fond farewells

fond farewells

In fact, I’m writing this in bed on a Wednesday morning, a previously undreamt-of luxury. Things have wrapped up at the school in a fiesta of cakes, sweets and impressively orchestrated songs (George Orwell’s ‘Beasts of England’, to be precise). Things are about to wrap up, in terribly dramatic style, with the annual comedy night at the theatre group, and three weeks worth of paper-trail for Korean immigration and a working visa have just been wrapped up quite literally in a stiff envelope and sent off by registered mail. Now I wait in limbo to see what happens next.

As it happens, limbo is extraordinarily comfortable. Right now, it feels a lot like bed. However, the last couple of days have been busy. I have dived straight in to a wonderful job creating lots of fun extra activities and classes to supplement a course book. The joy of working at home, and particularly the joy of not getting up at 6am and having an hour’s commute on a bus crammed with small, disease-ridden, vomiting children through the insane Lima traffic, is inexpressible. The really great thing is having the time to find and hone ideas and get straight back to thinking about teaching English as fun, something I have lost sight of from time to time.

Aside from that, the task of collecting one piece of paper at a time for the Korea packet finally concluded on Monday afternoon with a two hour wait to get our medical papers signed, followed by a surprisingly cheap and quick visit to the notary (happily on the corner of our block) and then a more lengthy bus ride through the gathering evening rush-hour to the UPS office in the neighbouring district of Magdalena del Mar. In all, this has been three weeks of waiting in queues, signing things, and waiting for results.

Amazingly, the thing that I thought would take the longest and be the most trying – the local police check – was completed in under two days, while the thing that I thought would take under an hour – the medical check – has in fact taken two weeks. There have been some fine examples of the kind of bizarre bureaucratic processes that I previously fell foul of on my Machu Picchu adventure, but going in to all of this expecting the worst has made it a relatively easy experience.

The police check, for example, started out difficult as we couldn’t work out, from the range of price schedules and different purposes for the various checks, what we were supposed to be getting. Eventually we figured we were probably after the most expensive one, a check for ‘priors’ for use abroad. Having worked this out, we had to go to a particular bank to pay the fee and get the right form to fill out. The bank is a ten minute walk from the flat. Then we had to take the form, correctly filled out, to the police station in the neighbouring district of Surquillo, where the checks take place.

What I found amazing was that this is not only the only place in Lima that can conduct these checks, but also the only place in the whole of Peru! Every Peruvian who needs this form, whether they live in Tumbes, 20 hours drive to the north, or Tacna, 20 hours drive to the south, has to go to this one place if they want to get this piece of paper. Thank god I live in Miraflores, 20 minutes to the north-west by foot. Once there, the rest was smooth. An hour’s queue to get in the door was a relatively mild inconvenience. Once in, I had my teeth checked (presumably in case I bit the counter after robbing a bank?!?), all of my fingerprints taken, a photo taken which, of course, made me look like a glowering escaped convict, and I was merrily on my way with the pleasant advice that the certificate would be ready to collect the following afternoon.

The medical was the reverse. The queue was a surprisingly short 15 minutes or so, but rather than a few common bits and bobs like height, weight, blood pressure and saying ‘aaahhh’, we were prescribed a full battery of tests and left the clinic with a number of sample bottles in our hands and a gloomy, sinking feeling in our hearts.

The following week involved a lot of fibre in the diet, and a whole lot of toilet roll to safely catch and bottle the results.

At the end of that week of joy, I presented myself at the clinic for the next round. Bottles were submitted, and blood was drawn. In true NHS supporter fashion, I tend to eschew the services of the shiny happy private clinics which abound in my neighbourhood and instead go to the much nearer, cheaper and busier public clinic. This is also over the road from both the launderette and the market, so three birds can be killed with one stone. However, this means that service is no frills, and I have definitely had the no frills bruise in my arm to show it.

Still, after all of that, the papers have finally been posted, the Korean lessons have started (somewhat counter-intuitively for a language teacher, I prefer to learn on my own from CDs and books and have found a really jolly bite-sized site for learning) and now the waiting game begins.

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